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After several harassing days of travel, they reached at night-fall a miserable hut, situated, as my father supposed, about twenty miles from the coast. He begged for shelter of the old man and woman who occupied it, and they civilly consented, though the miserable couple had scarcely bread to eat.
My father gave the woman a few francs to buy food enough for them all, cautioning her not to say a word about her present guests.
The next morning, after a most unrefreshing night in this wretched hovel, the poor travellers set off at an early hour, leaving some money with their kind though wretched hosts.
After a long walk in a sort of narrow defile, they mounted the high bank, in order to have the shelter of some trees, while they partook of some refreshment contained in their basket.
They had scarcely got to the top of the bank, when a view presented itself, which filled them with surprise and delight.
It was no other than the Mediterranean sea, which, glittering in the sun beams, lay extended at their feet at the distance, as they supposed, of about five miles.
My mother had never beheld the sea till then, and her wonder was only equalled by her gratitude. They could scarcely speak for joy: Their first words were thankfulness to that Great Being who had conducted them so far, and through such a variety of perils, almost to the end of their long and perilous journey.
They forgot their humble breakfast, and sat long gazing on the glorious object which had for so long a time been the subject of their hopes and thoughts.
They forgot how many perils they might yet have to encounter before they could reach one of those vessels which dotted the sea, and which they fondly hoped would bear them to England and liberty. A different species of liberty to that so boasted of by the equalising Frenchmen.
At last, rousing themselves to exertion by recollecting how much they had still to pass through before they could leave behind them the land and the people they so much dreaded and disliked, they hurried over their frugal meal, and proceeded onwards in high spirits.
Keeping themselves as much concealed as possible amongst the fields all day, they drew towards evening near a village, which, however, they passed without venturing to show themselves.
When they had got beyond the last house, the sea became again visible, and, invigorated by the prospect, again they hastened forwards till they came opposite a neat cottage, in front of which two or three children were at play, Entering into conversation, they found that the possessor of it was their mother and a widow, who had not returned, they said, from her work, and there was only their eldest sister in the house.
My parents accordingly determined to enter and endeavour to procure shelter for the night.
They found in the kitchen a young girl, about sixteen years of age, busily employed in preparing supper for the family, and upon learning their wishes she willingly consented to their request.
She seemed very communicative and inquisitive ; they therefore thought it best to give her
the same account of themselves as they had given to others, namely, their stolen marriage.
This intelligence made the girl warmly espouse their cause ; and she declared she should never expect to have a husband herself, if she did not befriend them.
In the middle of their conversation her mother entered, who readily seconded her daughter's kindness; and after partaking of a comfortable supper, they retired to rest, most thankful for the unexpected and friendly shelter they had obtained.
As they were now so near the sea, it occurred to them that it would be desirable to endeavour to prevail on their present hostess to allow them shelter and concealment till an opportunity offered of getting off to some English vessel.
The following morning, after the mother was gone to her work in the fields, they opened the matter to Justine, by asking her whether she would allow them to remain where they were for a week, and whether her mother and herself would consent to conceal them for that time,
assuring her that they were able to remunerate them for their kindness and trouble; and this they could easily do, as they had not touched the gold given to them by the good count.
Justine, who, though very good natured, was also very fond of finery, and of course of money, as the means of procuring it, promised all they asked, and confirmed them in the hope they entertained of being easily concealed for as long a time as they liked in this humble abode, particularly as no one had seen them enter, except the children, who could be easily silenced.
This affair settled, my parents lost no time in arranging their clothes, and purchasing, with Justine's assistance, a few necessaries preparatory to their long looked for voyage.
They were anxious to sound their young hostess upon the subject of their leaving the coast, when, most unexpectedly, she began a conversation which led at once, though most unconsciously on her part, to the very topic nearest their hearts.
She was arranging several packages in large